The Argentine Kidnapping by Bill Sheehy

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The Argentine Kidnapping by Bill Sheehy

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Kerry King
Reviewed by Kerry King
Summary: Bernie's life is on a downward spiral since he lost his job as a journalist; his fiction writing won't pay the rent and his wife has had enough of him. But life takes a real turn for the worse when he is accused of planning to hold-up a big money poker game and organising an armoured car robbery. Suddenly, Bernie's life seems unrecognisable. And then he meets Mr Gussling.
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: February 2010
Publisher: Robert Hale
ISBN: 978-0709089940

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Son Cardonsky is the type of guy that would make even the biggest of cowards want to take on the playground bully on their behalf. Which, funnily enough, is how Bernie Gould acquires Son Cardonsky as his 'best-friend-forever'; at least, that is, Son considers Bernie to be his best friend in the world, even if Bernie can't quite see it the same way.

Now you'd think that someone with no backbone at all – that is to say a person genetically programmed to be unable to fight their way out of a paper bag – would try and keep their nose clean, wouldn't you? Yes, me too. So when Son comes crying to Bernie for the millionth time in their lives because he's got himself in proper hot water with a not-so-small-time hood who thinks Son would look pretty fetching in a concrete overcoat, Bernie realises he probably has to cut Son loose forever. Son, however, has other ideas and when Mr Cement Works somehow comes by the idea that Bernie plans to rip off his high stakes poker game, there is now a matching ticket for Bernie in the front row of the same one-way-ticket ride as Son is destined for. If you were thinking, at this point, that things can only get better, you'd better think again as Bernie also finds himself accused of being the brains behind an armoured car heist and before you can say South America, Bernie is staring down the barrel of an unpleasant and certain death or a minimum of twenty years in a maximum-security state pen.

So, what's a guy to do? If you were Bernie, you'd probably want a little time to mull your future possibilities over before grasping the hopelessness of the situation. But not our hero. Bernie has had it tough the last few years, you see and he is quite accustomed to Hobson's choice. Firstly he loses his job as a journalist and when his laboured efforts at fiction fall flat, his wife, Inez heads off to more fiscally verdant pastures. Losing a job and a wife over an indecently brief period has the tendency to focus ones mind somewhat and the entrance into Bernie's life of Mr Theodore Gussling could probably be described as either fate or good fortune. Probably. If you believe in karma. But the amount of money Gussling is offering Bernie to go and deliver a ransom demand to his wife's kidnappers in Argentina seem a little too good to be true. It would be an immediate end to his own financial problems – Hell, Inez might even come back – and it would take care of a certain Mr Cement Works and all the trouble his friend Son is in. Naturally, though, the word kidnappers is a cause for some concern - even for Bernie. Would you get on that plane headed for Argentina? Is Gussling on the level? Would you wonder what the catch might be if it really was just a simple 'courier job'?

The first thing that struck me about Bill Sheehy (pronounced Shee-High) and this first foray of his into the crime thriller genre (it seems that Sheehy is more accustomed to penning the odd Western) was that The Argentine Kidnapping appeared to be a good, old-fashioned crime thriller. The hero, Bernie, though a little unlikely (a tad young and unburly in my book and maybe and a bit too pretty) appears to be like a cross between Mike Hammer and James Bond – the narrative is very old-school-private-eye in style and I liked it's Singing Detective appeal. Often I enjoy being told a story as if the narrator is in the room, sitting across from me in a wing chair, with a neat scotch in one hand as the other travels and rasps over a three-day beard and The Argentine Kidnapping is most definitely that kind of book. So far so good.

Another intensely likeable trait of the writer is that he does not forget a single character and their role within the story. I guess that is Sheehy's journalistic past creeping into the frame as there is not a minute spent whilst reading that you wonder what is happening to whom. The result is a tale that meshes really well with every character you have been introduced to, in a pleasing and methodical fashion. That might not seem so relevant for some readers, but I can tell you, from my point of view, I hate sitting around wondering what the point of a cast of thousands is and then, conversely, what may or may not have happened to them in their various situations because the author has forgotten about them!

Anyway, back to the story. We find ourselves and Bernie chasing the money (natch, or where is the story?!) and the usual assorted mishaps and misdeeds is prescribed by Sheehy, building to a believable crescendo and a neat twist in the plot at the end. Now, here's the rub; it's a small one, but it's still a rub. The Argentine Kidnapping had all of the component parts required for this type of novel and that believe it or not, is the problem. I felt a bit like Sheehy had taken a course in crime thriller writing and churned out a book as soon as he finished the programme. The spontaneity was completely absent from the writing – in any form. Whilst I really liked the characters (all of them. Every one!) the sense of déjà vu was overpowering and I knew almost immediately how the story was going to end and that was a shame. No one likes to spoil their own read, now, do they?!

Overall, The Argentine Kidnapping was a great read; a good story – there are certainly a myriad of examples to be found on the Internet about random and not so random kidnappings in Argentina – it was well told (if a tad predictable), well narrated and neatly finished. In light of that, I'm not sure I can justify less than three and a half stars but should point out it would have been more if there had been a few more surprises thrown into the plot.

For further reading, I'd most definitely like to recommend Losing You by Nicci French – it's a real heart-stopper. You should also take a look at Love in the Present Tense by Catherine Ryan Hyde, both of which novels we at Bookbag highly recommend. Failing that, perhaps Second Coming by Martin Wells is more your flavour. You might also appreciate Degrees of Guilt by Patrick Marrinan, Kamchatka by Marcelo Figueras or Fold by Tom Campbell.

Lastly, we at Bookbag would like to extend our thanks to the kind ladies and gentlemen at Robert Hale for sending this copy to us for review.

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